Ballmer Says No to Yahoo, Yes to Research
You gotta love Steve Ballmer. Here's a man who doesn't need to work but toils
harder than any of us, speaks his mind the way many of us could only dream,
and heads a company that makes more profit in one day than the big three automakers
make in a year. Ballmer is just plain interesting.
Yesterday, Ballmer was in his element, helping to oversee the company's annual
Despite overt pleas from Yahoo shareholders and the resignation
of Yahoo's CEO Jerry Yang, Ballmer has less interest in buying Yahoo than
he does bailing out the auto industry -- which Microsoft could actually afford
to do (or at least try). As I've suggested here many times, Microsoft would
be better off spending its billions in cash on building things no one of has
ever thought of, not buying me-too technology.
Ballmer, who always answers my e-mails but I'm pretty sure doesn't read my
newsletter, agrees. He told shareholders the company must continue to invest
in smart people doing pure research as well as product development. And like
all of us, Ballmer is tightening the old Microsoft belt, and is actually looking
toward a shrunken head count. Layoffs, anyone?
In other news, former Microsoft president and longtime board member Jon Shirley
retired as a director. At one of the last shareholder meetings, Shirley gave
me a ride in his black Porsche 944 to a Microsoft reception. Shirley, along
with Mike Maples, was one of the truly great Microsoft presidents.
Malware To Gain Free, New Enemy;
OneCare on Borrowed Time
If you're bombarded with malware -- and I've gotten an earful
about scareware from many faithful Redmond Report readers -- free help from
Microsoft is on the way.
Excited? Sorry to bring you down, but the reality is this new free help won't
arrive for at
least a year.
I have no clue why Microsoft announced this so far in advance. Viruses and
other rogue code scum are a problem now! What should we do with this
information -- not use Trend Micro HouseCall (which I love) or defer re-subscribing
to McAfee or Symantec?
The good news is that it seems Microsoft will get rid of its problem-plagued
Live OneCare, a direct but less effective competitor to solid partners like
Trend, Symantec, McAfee, Sunbelt and others.
Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA) has
a new hack -- but only for those that also use Temporary Key Integrity Protocol
(TKIP). TKIP traffic can be decrypted, so your passwords, corporate info and
love notes could well be compromised.
The answer? Moving to WPA 2 or adding the Advanced Encryption Standard.
Mailbag: What's In a Label?
On the heels of yesterday's deluge
of letters about the "Vista Capable" labeling suit, here are more
of your thoughts on whether Microsoft should win or lose:
M$ should lose. The (assumed) point of the Vista label was to provide
a quick ID to the general public, implying that "you're all set"
to enjoy all the features we advertise, without the need to investigate further.
Those with enough tech savvy to investigate further would find readily
available info that there may be limitations with the labeled hardware, but
this would only point out the label was "misleading." Hardly a defense.
I hope Microsoft pays through the nose. This was a fraud perpetrated on
the average consumer and it needs to learn a lesson.
If it runs any version of Vista, then it meets the test. It's dirty marketing.
MS may win this lawsuit but it will lose the trust of its customer base. If
it's wise, MS will make a concession and allow free upgrades to licensed owners
One might assume that anything labeled "Vista Capable" would
be better off using Windows XP! But more on the point, if savvy tech people
are misled by labeling practices, then Microsoft is playing word games and
should be held accountable for misleading a public that is much less savvy
about such things.
As a consumer, a "Vista Capable" machine should be able to run
Vista out of the box, without any additional modification. In my case, I am
running Vista Ultimate SP1 on an Inspiron E1505, 1GB memory. The machine is
"Designed for Windows XP" and is labeled "Vista Capable."
Since it runs Vista without problem, I take "Vista Capable" as being
an accurate statement.
It depends on what you mean by "Vista Capable" machines. Does
this label mean that the machine must be capable of running all the eye candy
such as Aero Glass and other graphics-intensive, eye-catching features? Or
does this label mean that the machine must be capable of running Vista? If
the latter is the case, then most older Pentium 4 PCs with at least 2GB of
RAM and all dual-core processors with at least 1GB of RAM are Vista Capable.
I installed Vista SP1 Enterprise Edition on an older Compaq Pentium 4,
1.8Ghz W4000, which I gave to my wife. After upgrading it from 1GB to 2GB
RAM, it runs just as good or better than XP ran on it. I gave my daughter
my old HP nc6120 laptop with 2GB RAM running XP. With the latest available
Wi-Fi driver, it kept disconnecting continually from our home wireless access
point (using WPA encryption). I did a fresh install to Vista SP1 Enterprise
Edition, and it runs better now than when XP was installed, and has not disconnected
from our home wireless network ever since. Now, if the machine must be able
to run Vista as well as all its eye candy to have a "Vista Capable"
sticker, that is a different story.
I'm really not one to complain, but if we are talking semantics, then
M$ may lose this one. I'm thinking that if you have a product that can only
be used in ONE fashion, then it should be clearly stated. There are multiple
versions of Vista available and many beginners would not have the vaguest
clue about which one they would want for their particular needs. Somebody
should have taken a little extra time on product label design so this would
not be a problem.
I think Microsoft should win. Here is my defense of that statement: To
me, it is no different than a car manufacturer stating 33 MPG, and in the
real world getting 25 MPG. By that I am saying, if you did drive as claimed
by the letter of the test that claimed it got 33 MPG, then in fact you would
be as close to achieving their claim as stated. This MPG claim has been going
on for years.
I could go on with more examples, but this one clearly exposes the "devil
in the details" as good as any example I can think of.
You know, like in car sales, there has to be an asterisk to show that
the ad doesn't imply you get everything. Like air conditioning, cruise control,
which size engine, etc.
This IS what Microsoft omitted doing and given the nature of marketing
and legalities for other products, I'd say it's guilty of being outright misleading.
I think that Microsoft damaged the reputation of Vista so badly by allowing
those stickers, it has already paid the price. By saying those low powered
boxes could run Vista, many people had a horrible first experience with Vista,
and those same people are still using XP to this day.
Also, many of them told people about it, and those people still "hate"
Vista. Some of those people buy things in the corporate world, and they did
not adopt Vista. Microsoft is already paying for this.
This is yet another Microsoft way of putting a spin on the Vista fiasco.
Either a computer runs an OS or it doesn't. For the public to have to differentiate
the multitude of Vista versions available and determine which ones a computer
can run is borderline absurd. Set the bar high as to what is needed to run
Vista. Then, any of the less robust versions of Vista will run better than
expected. Hardware is so inexpensive these days that it is foolish to take
the approach MS has taken.
Fortunately, when we purchased my daughter's new laptop, we listened to
the sales associate and bought a higher-end machine. Vista is OK for her on
this platform and does pretty much what she needs (but I still like Windows
The bottom line is that I am sure there are a lot of folks out there
who were misled. There is such a thing as truth in advertising. Microsoft
should lose this one -- and it will either way, in terms of legal fees, should
this go to court.
I for one think that the whole Vista Capable logo was a complete line
of bull. I have not read all of the documents and e-mails that have been made
public on this matter, so I do that not have the perspective on the case.
But I have always thought that the logo program was to be used to show that
a PC was capable of running the OS, be it slow at times. And now we have a
new logo that was being introduced just so manufacturers could continue to
ship lower-end computers that are already coming through the retail channels.
This label was very deceiving because it clearly states that the computer
is "Vista Capable." Why not say "Vista Basic Capable"?
One simple reason: to try to deceive the consumer into buying hardware that
is not really capable. But they may not notice since so many different people
are buying computers now.
There is a very wide range of expertise and understanding in your typical
PC consumer these days and this label was developed and used in hopes of continuing
to sell a sub-standard experience and users would not understand.
Share your thoughts on this issue -- or on any of the other topics covered
here -- by leaving a comment below, or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Doug Barney is editor in chief of Redmond magazine and the VP, editorial director of Redmond Media Group.